Bruce Dickinson: “We’re all living longer and more effective lives, which is great – as long as you do something with it”

While the destruction of everything that has ever existed is fertile ground for songwriting, The Mandrake Project is brimming with even more stories and scenes from a vivid, unceasing imagination. Many Doors To Hell, for example, is about a female vampire who just wants to die.

“[They want] to change back into a human at any cost. ‘I don’t care, I don’t want to live forever, I’m done with this shit. Do you know how long I’ve been like this and how fucking lonely this is?’ It’s a song about wanting to live from somebody who has eternal life, but also eternal death. It’s better to live in reality than it is to live for centuries.”

Rain On The Graves, meanwhile, comes from Bruce’s experience of hanging in out with the dead.

“I wrote that song, or part of it, in a graveyard. I was standing in front of Wordsworth’s grave in the Lake District, I’d been on a bit of a pilgrimage to his house. I’m standing by the church and there’s his grave, and it was drizzle and it was grey. And that was it – rain on the graves. I thought, ‘I don’t know what this is about, but this is a moment, and I’ll figure out what it’s about when I write the rest of it.’

“That was probably 2008 or something like that. I’ve had all these things kicking around in drawers, bits of lyrics and things that can all surface at some point. It’s about a guy who meets the Devil in the graveyard and the Devil says, ‘Hey, who are you then? What are you here for?’ And that’s it, isn’t it? Why do we go into graveyards? What are we looking for? It’s full of dead people! But we go into graveyards and there’s something spooky or inspirational.”

What were you looking for when you went to visit Wordsworth?

“I have no idea. It was a sort of melancholy about the nature of being legendary, but just being in a slab in the ground. It was kind of ironic that someone who created such amazing poetry is now just a square rock. And I related it to what was turning into the story, I was always doing the story. And we got some pretty cool words out of it, this conversation between me and the Devil. There’s a line in there, ‘to kneel before the poet, not the altar or the priest’, and that’s me! I’m trying to get inspiration from a bit of granite. And that’s what artists do, they steal from everybody, they get inspiration from everywhere, and if you can’t find it, go sit in a graveyard and borrow somebody else’s dead spirit (laughs).”